How to Protect Driving Privileges While Fighting an OWI in Wisconsin

Updated by Stangl Law on October 9, 2020

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With over 30 years' experience defending clients against criminal charges, like drunk driving, in Wisconsin, Stangl Law understands one very important issue on their minds:

"Will I lose my driver's license?"

Certainly, driving privileges are on the line after anyone is arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol on Wisconsin roads. There are, however, ways you can potentially minimize restrictions on your ability to drive during this time.

If you are facing any charges relating to driving while intoxicated (such as OWI, DUI, DWI, BAC or PAC) in Wisconsin, it is imperative to consult an experienced attorney to help with your defense to increase your likelihood of keeping your license.

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Why Would My Driver's License be Suspended or Revoked?

First, it is important to understand driving is considered a privilege in this state. Law enforcement can and will suspend or revoke your driver's license for multiple reasons.

Like many other states, Wisconsin uses a point system to determine if and when to suspend or revoke a driver's license. This system assigns different numbers of points on your license depending on the infraction committed. The more points you incur on your license, the higher the likelihood you will lose your right to drive for some period of time.

Your driving privileges can also be further impacted if you were arrested while driving with a suspended license.

You also risk losing your driver's license if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving or driving while intoxicated.

Will I Lose My License if I'm Pulled Over for Drunk Driving in Wisconsin?

Once you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, the police officer may ask you to submit to one or multiple field sobriety tests (FSTs), such as walking in a straight line. It is important to note, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED BY LAW to take any field sobriety tests. Instead, you may politely refuse. This may help your defense later.

The only exception applies to commercial drivers. If you are pulled over while driving under your commercial driver's license (CDL), you are required to submit to FSTs as part of the terms of your license.

If you do refuse FSTs, you will likely be arrested anyway under suspicion of driving under the influence.

If you choose to participate in FSTs and fail, chances are you will be arrested on the spot and taken into custody where you will likely forfeit your driver's license and be given a temporary license which will expire in 30 days.

If you are facing charges for drunk driving in Wisconsin, be sure to contact an experienced attorney to help you with your defense.

If I Refuse Chemical Testing, Will I Lose My Driver's License?

After you are arrested, law enforcement officers will almost certainly request you submit to chemical testing to determine your Blood Alcohol Level, or BAC.

If you are a licensed driver of any kind in the state of Wisconsin, the rule of Implied Consent dictates you must submit to chemical testing. 

Implied Consent gives the police the right to perform these tests--against your will, if need be. These tests can include blood tests, breath tests and urine tests.

As you are required by law to submit to these tests, your refusal—even if you later change your mind--to submit to these tests will almost certainly result in your immediate arrest.

Refusing this type of testing will likely not help with your OWI defense. It will add another charge to the case against you, be admissible as proof of guilt on your part and more. Refusing to let the police test your BAC will also result in the suspension of your driver's license.

There are additional penalties to refusing to honor Implied Consent in Wisconsin. In addition to a fine and the various penalties for refusing to voluntarily take the necessary tests to determine your blood alcohol level, the following penalties would affect your driving privileges:

  • If this was your first (1st) OWI offense, your driver's license will be revoked for one (1) year.
  • If this was your second (2nd) OWI offense and occurred within 10 years of your first OWI offense, your driver's license will be revoked for two (2) years.
  • For a third (3rd) OWI offense within 10 years of the second OWI offense, your license will be revoked for three (3) years.

If you refused chemical testing after your arrest for drunk driving in Wisconsin, you should contact an experienced attorney specializing in OWI defense immediately.

How Soon Would I Lose my Driving Privileges?

Once you are taken into custody on drunk driving charges, the clock starts on your ability to keep your driver's license. To help ensure your best result, get in touch with a qualified OWI attorney as soon as you are able.

If you were given a breathalyzer test when you were pulled over or after your arrest and your blood alcohol level was .08 or higher, the arresting officer will immediately take your driver's license and issue a temporary license to you which will expire in 30 days, after which time your driving privileges will be suspended.

There is a way for you to challenge this action and potentially keep your driver's license.

When you were given your temporary license, you should have also received (or will soon receive in the mail) a "Notice of Intent to Suspend."

This is a very important document which may be your last opportunity to salvage your driver's license until your OWI, DUI, DWI, BAC or PAC case ends up in court. But you must act fast!

What is a Notice of Intent to Suspend?

The minute that "Notice of Intent" to suspend or revoke your driver's license is written, the clock starts ticking. Well-adept at defending against OWI charges in Wisconsin, Stangl Law knows clients must act quickly to ensure they will receive the best defense against drunk driving charges.  

When you are issued a temporary license after being arrested for drunk driving or driving under the influence, the arresting officer will give you a piece of paper called a "Notice of Intent to Revoke" or "Notice of Intent to Suspend" which demands your immediate attention.

The purpose of this notice is to inform you that you will lose your driver's license 30 days from the date the notice was written—unless you request an Administrative Review Hearing.

It is very important when you contact an attorney to help you defend against OWI charges, you also ask for assistance in keeping your driving privileges. This means you will need to request an Administrative Review Hearing as part of your defense—and soon.

What is an Administrative Review Hearing?

This type of hearing is your only opportunity to avoid a pre-conviction suspension of your driving privileges. In other words, this is your last chance to try to keep your driver's license from being suspended while you wait for your DUI case to go to court.

Though not a guarantee, you can potentially stop the automatic suspension of your license if you take advantage of requesting an Administrative Review Hearing in time.

In the State of Wisconsin, you only have 10 days after your "Notice of Intent" was issued to request an administrative review hearing. 

Granted, you are in the middle of an arrest, which is a highly-stressful and often confusing time, but you are only given ten (10) days from the date of the notice to request such a hearing. If you fail to request a hearing within this allotted time, your driver's license will automatically be suspended after 30 days—and you haven't even gone to court to fight your OWI charges yet.

An experienced Wisconsin OWI attorney will help you meet this deadline to avoid the potential penalties, including risking suspension of your driving privileges and/or license.

How Can I Fight to Keep My Driver's License?

As there are multiple ways to lose your driving privileges in Wisconsin, there are also a variety of ways to regain those same privileges—even in the event of OWI charges.

There are ways you can fight the suspension or revocation of your driving privileges in Wisconsin while waiting for your driving under the influence case to go to court.

There may also be factors surrounding your arrest which may give cause for the courts to dismiss your case.

To ensure you are taking advantage of all opportunities to retain your driving privileges while defending against any charges relating to operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant, as well as exploring all avenues to defend against the charges your face, contact a knowledgeable attorney specializing in OWI defense.

What Can I Do if I Need to Drive for Work and am Facing OWI Charges?

If you are a truck driver facing OWI charges in Wisconsin, or depend on driving for your work and have been arrested for drunk driving, you should contact a lawyer specializing in OWI defense.

If you do not drive for your paid job, but still need to drive as part of your daily responsibilities (stay-at-home parent, full-time student, etc.), it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney who understands your type of circumstances and can help argue your case on your behalf.

If you are the parent of a teenager or student who needs to drive in order to get to school and is currently facing OWI charges, consider reading this article for more information and contact an attorney.

What's the First Step if I Want to Keep My Driver's License After Arrest for OWI in Wisconsin?

The advice for fighting suspension of your driver's license after an OWI arrest, is the same for defending against OWI charges: contact a lawyer who is well-experienced in providing successful OWI defense in Wisconsin.

Again, if you rely on your driving privileges or are a professional driver such as a truck driver, delivery driver, cab driver, chauffeur or other profession requiring a Commercial Drivers License or CDL, or rely on driving for your personal care or livelihood, it is imperative you secure experienced legal counsel right away to ensure your strongest chance of retaining your driving privileges while fighting OWI charges.

FREE 10-Minute Consultation

Taking too long to contact an attorney to help get your defense strategy organized and set in motion can result in losing your driving privileges or even having your drivers' license revoked.


Madison Criminal Defense Attorney Patrick J. Stangl, is committed to exploring options for your best defense and has been defending clients across the state since 1991. To this end, he is pleased to offer at no-obligation a FREE 10-minute consultation to discuss the specifics of your case and take the first step in putting this stressful time behind you.

Madison Attorney, Patrick J. Stangl, who specializes in OWI cases, is happy to offer at no obligation a FREE 10-minute consultation to get you pointed in the right direction in your fight to protect your driving privileges, while defending against drunk driving charges.

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Topics: Drunk Driving Charges (OWI)



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